Review: Trine (PC)
by Ashe Collins on August 10, 2009

Trine
Developer: Frozenbyte
Publisher: Nobilis
Genre: Action Platformer
Release Date: 07/10/09


Ahh, the good old hack and slash platformer. Trine combines some very nice aspects of this genre and tosses in a whole new bag of tricks with a brand new (it’s only been used in three other games) physics engine from nVidia. Will the physics engine help this platformer or drop it into a pit?

Story

There is a great story in this game, so let me get that out of the way first. It’s got lots of built in humor, but still manages to tell a strong story and, above all, entertain. This is actually one of the few games that has really engaged me with its story-telling over the past few months, and the story isn’t even the main thrust of the game, as it really only advances during the loading screen and at the beginning and the end of the levels as you move through them.

You start off as a female thief trying to steal a magical artifact, but when you grab it, you’re stuck to it, along with the mage and knight characters, as you’re thrust into an adventure while you try to separate yourselves from each other. The only one who seems to know what they’re doing is the thief, as the knight only aspires to be a knight and cares more about food and ale, and the mage has yet to figure out how to cast a fireball and thinks it’s totally impossible and unachievable.

The comic relief stems from the three of them trying to get along as they move through their world, seeking out the other two matching artifacts that will free them from each other, and the narrator who tries to be serious with his story-telling but eventually gives in and starts picking on the trio as they make their way along. The end result is a fairly amusing and fantastical tale that is as entertaining as it is enchanting. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Story Rating: Classic

Graphics

This is one gorgeous game. From the fire and lava lighting effects to the gloom of a dungeon and the beauty of an old fairy tale forest, this game delivers on the pretty. Where other 3D platformers that lock you down into 2D have yet to achieve these sorts of effects, Trine has. I had very few incidents where the camera was a problem and it does zoom in and out at very appropriate moments in the levels.

My only complaint is a lack of variety in levels and monsters. Despite having different puzzles to figure out at different points in the levels, you don’t always feel like you’re traveling through different areas. Some have a distinct visual feel, but all the forests feel the same, and there’s nothing to distinguish them from one another. The same goes for the monsters. You fight skeletons, bats, and spiders, and sometimes a few boss monsters, but half of said bosses are simply bigger skeletons. That gets a bit boring, and a few more variations would have been nice.

What is here though looks fantastic and with only a few glitches this game delivers visually.

Graphics Rating: Good

Sound

I expect my fantasy games to sound epic, and this one does. It has an amazing soundtrack and some fantastic voice actors for what little dialogue is there during the levels. You can hear the monsters off screen, and the sounds actually come from the direction they’re in. This all really helps you get into the game, especially with the great and funny writing throughout. Once I was done playing the game, I started poking around looking for the soundtrack, because frankly, this is how music should be in a game. It should pull you in and fit the theme, not just play in the background as filler. The audio in the game overall is really well done.

Sound Rating: Incredible

Control and Gameplay

Trine uses mouse and keyboard controls by default. You move around and trigger some abilities with the keyboard, and aim, fire and select weapons with your mouse. The mage also uses the mouse to create objects like boxes, planks and floating pyramids, as well as move objects around using telekinesis. The controls are all very responsive, and I didn’t have any problems with telling my pixel person where to go or what to do.

The gameplay consists of navigating through levels while figuring out how to get around puzzles using your group. You only play as one character at a time, but can switch to any of the three at that moment, and usually the puzzles require at least two of your people’s abilities to get around. Some puzzles are easier than others, and adding to the difficulty are the hordes of skeleton warriors, archers and fire-breathers, as well as spiders on the walls and the occasional group of annoying bats. You might also run across a boss monster from time to time; some are giant skeletons, while others are these bizarre lizard men that you have to hit on the back to deal any damage to them.

The combat does get a bit repetitive due to the lack of monster variety, but the puzzles are almost always different. While you employ some of the same tactics to get around them, there are usually multiple ways around them, as well as multiple ways to use your environment against your enemies and help yourself. You also have to collect experience bottles as well as spot chests that are not always easy to find to get better equipment to add to your party’s strengths. As you gain more experience, you can use the points you accrue to level up your character’s abilities, putting fire on the blade of your sword, launching flaming arrows, that sort of thing.

The game employs a checkpoint system, which works quite well, except when you have to leave the game early and aren’t quite to the end of the level. Then you have to start that level all over again, which can be really annoying. The implemented physics are really well done, and things really move like they have weight to them. Add to that the fact that most of the puzzles rely on gravity and physics to allow you to get around, and you have a lot of really ingenious puzzles and traps to work with.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Great

Replayability

Trine does have a co-op mode, but it’s not multiplayer, so you’ll have to share the PC with someone else, which hurts the game a bit, though the developers do say they’re working on it in their forums. The game has a trophy system built into it with the Steam version that more or less tallies up your chances for getting experience in a level, which isn’t always as easy as it seems. You may end up having to re-do a level multiple times to get all of the available experience to earn said trophy, if that’s your idea of fun.

That alone can be a challenge, but add to that the fact that you have multiple challenge levels, and that the challenges do get progressively harder, as do the areas themselves. There’s plenty to keep you coming back to this game aside from the challenge, as the characters actually have some depth and personality to them, and the story is still amusing the second time, even if you play through on the same difficulty setting again.

Replayability Rating: Great

Balance

With the varying difficulty settings, this game can be fairly easy to virtually unfair, depending on your tastes. It’s nice to see that the levels do get harder to complete as you move through them. Learning and using your new abilities is very easy, and you can get very creative with them in time. In these respects, the game is balanced brilliantly.

As far as pricing goes, Trine is about $30 on Steam for a game that will take about 8-10 hours to get through the first time. While this doesn’t seem like much, comparatively you’re getting much more play time for your money, unlike some other games I’ve played through recently that were 8-10 hours for twice as much. The developers have done a fantastic job making sure you don’t get hammered if you’re playing on easy and that you do when you’re playing on hard, and that means a lot.

Balance Rating: Classic

Originality

While the action platformer has been around for awhile, this particular way of presenting the genre has not, especially with the new physics engine integrated into the game and the ability to change out characters on the fly. The environments are visually beyond those of any game I’ve played in awhile, and the characters aren’t you’re generic over the top heroes; they’re kind of hapless and have just been thrown into this rather bizarre set of circumstances. This is the kind of game I really like playing; it’s not a sequel, and it’s full of lots of new ideas and experiences.




Originality Rating: Incredible

Addictiveness

If the last game I reviewed, Strikers 1945 Plus Portable, was addictive, Trine is almost as bad. The brilliantly designed puzzles left me trying lots of different ways to get around the levels, and I found I was occasionally challenging myself to get around using just one of the characters to make my way through the different challenges. I got so involved that my wife had a hard time getting my attention while I was playing, which, to all you non-married folks out there, can be a pretty big problem.

Addictiveness Rating: Great

Appeal Factor

Trine combines the right price for a great game that plays well and has few bugs with lots of fun dialogue and a great story. Personally, I think anyone who likes old school platformers and has a sense of humor should pick this one up. This game has a lot going for it, and I think a lot of people will see that.

Appeal Factor Rating: Good

Miscellaneous

I did notice some slowdown with this game in a few points; when there was a lot going on that either the physics engine or the graphics engine had to process, the game would start to chug. Luckily it didn’t last long, but it was annoying, and on my gaming rig I shouldn’t have seen any of this given my system specs. Other than that, the game ran beautifully.

Miscellaneous Rating: Decent

The Scores
Story Rating: Classic
Graphics Rating: Good
Sound Rating: Incredible
Control and Gameplay Rating: Great
Replayability Rating: Great
Balance Rating: Classic
Originality Rating: Incredible
Addictiveness Rating: Great
Appeal Factor Rating: Good
Miscellaneous Rating: Decent
FINAL SCORE: GREAT GAME!

Short Attention Span Summary
asheresizeTrine is a classic style side-scrolling platformer with some great puzzles that uses some really decent physics and looks and plays beautifully. With an engaging and amusing story as well as some interesting characters, this game keeps you interested and challenged, and thanks to the decent price point for a brand new game with as much play value as one of the bigger ones on the market, you’re getting more than what you pay for with this one. I loved Trine and will definitely be revisiting its charming levels some time in the very near future.



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